Decision To Be Made On Gunnersbury Park Bowls Club

Planning committee to consider bid to convert it into mini-golf course

The lawn this autumn after volunteers clear it. Picture: Mark Kehoe

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Friends of Gunnersbury Park and Museum

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January 15, 2021

The proposal to convert the home of the Gunnersbury Park Bowls Club into a mini-golf course is due to be considered by the borough planning permission later this month.

The matter is on the agenda for the meeting on 20 January after it was ‘called in’ by Cllr Guy Lambert so that the decision will be made by councillors on the committee rather than planning officers. The planning officer’s report has recommended that the application be refused.

Lawn bowling has taken place at the site since 1931 but ceased on October 2019. The Gunnersbury Park Community Interest Company (the CIC) has refused to allow Gunnersbury Park Bowls Club (GPBC) to have access to the site despite the club having paid for the maintenance of the Bowls Pavilion and bowling green for the last 20 years.

The CIC entered into a commercial arrangement with a company called Putt in the Park to use the Bowls Pavilion and bowling green as a cafe/restaurant and a mini golf facility. It says this facility would see up to 30,000 visitors year and would offer a pizzeria and an artificial mini golf course similar to the one in Acton Park.

The use of the bowling green as a mini-golf facility does not in itself require planning permission but that would inevitably follow a consent for the adaptation of the Bowls Pavilion.

In April 2020 a planning application was refused by planning officers on the grounds that it was contrary to the Local Plan where it refers to protecting community facilities. The officer's recommendation is that the latest planning application should again be refused, on the same grounds. The Friends of Gunnersbury Park and Brentford Voice have also lodged a strong objections to the plan.

It is understood that the conversion to a mini-golf course would provide the CIC with much needed revenue. It has lost income due to the closure of the café in the park due to fire and the museum due to the lockdown. The Gunnersbury Park Sports Hub was originally due to open to the public in Summer 2019 but remains empty. It is understood it may be ready to start operating when lockdown ends. In a recent interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Mark Sesnan. the chief executive of GLL which operates the sports hub under the Better brand, said that the timing of the latest lockdown was a disaster for businesses in the gym sector and his firm was getting financial support from local authorities for which they operated leisure centres. We asked the CIC what , if any support was being given to Better but they did not respond.

Gunnersbury Park Bowling Club
Gunnersbury Park Bowling Club before lockdown. Picture: Visit Gunnersbury

In common with most bowls clubs in recent years, GPBC has experienced a decline in membership. However there has been a recent resurgence of interest in the sport and a very low-key campaign has led to a doubling of GPBC membership to over 40.

During autumn 2020 a group of local volunteers gained access to the site and succeeded in clearing weeds and mowing the bowling green. The green is not currently fit for bowling but the volunteers believe that it is recoverable.

If you would like to make your views known on this proposal, whether for or against, you can write a short email to members of the Planning Committee. The subject line of your email should be:

"Planning Committee 20 January 2021 - Agenda Item 3. Gunnersbury Park Bowls Club".

The email addresses for the members of this Planning Committee are:

The full agenda for the Planning Committee is available here.

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